Pentagon eyes drones for Kenya to fight militants nearby

WASHINGTON Sat Jul 21, 2012 2:55pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is seeking to send hand-launched drones to Kenya as part of a $40 million-plus military aid package designed to help four African countries fight al Qaeda and al Shabaab militants, notably in Somalia, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Kenya would get eight "Raven" unmanned aerial systems - an unarmed drone that can be used to identify targets for strikes by ground forces or other aircraft.

"This assistance will improve the tactical effectiveness and operational reach of the Kenyan National Defense Forces engaged in CT (counter-terrorism) operations against al Shabaab in Somalia," the newspaper quoted a Pentagon document as saying.

The Ravens for Kenya would be part of an initial $41.4 million package that also would include trucks, communications gear and rifles for Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda, the newspaper said.

The United States provided Ravens to Uganda last year, it added, citing officials and documents.

The Defense Department and the State Department had no immediate comment. U.S. government-to-government arms transfers are presided over by the State Department, subject to an often- lengthy congressional review process.

The newspaper cited officials as saying the military aid package would be meant to help key African allies in the region go after al Sabaab and other al Qaeda supporters.

The Raven is built by Monrovia, California-headquartered AeroVironment Inc. Weighing 4.2 pounds (1.9 kilograms) and with a wingspan of 4.5 feet (1.37 meters), it is described as capable of sending real-time color or infrared imagery to ground controllers and to remote viewers day or night.

(Reporting By Jim Wolf; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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